(a) an awesome natural sweetener
(b) an example of how slow I’ve been at getting a new post up. Badum-ching! Cue laugh track.
How about all of the above?
Friends! I know, I know. I’ve been gone for far too long. It’s been a busy couple of weeks – full of work craziness, business travels, fun travels, friends in town, etc. And this post just sat on my To Do list. And sat. And sat.
And molasses doesn’t deserve that! It treated me so well in my Walnut Molasses Whole Wheat Bread. It’s only right that I return the favor and write it up for you all! So here goes.
Molasses is the thick by-product from the processing of sugar cane into suger. It has a syrupy texture, dark, caramel color and robust, bittersweet flavor. Quick history…It was first imported into the U.S. from the Caribbean during colonial times – for use in rum! It was a very popular sweetener until the late 19th century because, at the time, it was much more affordable than refined sugar. But when refined sugar got cheaper, molasses was displaced. It still has a fan in me!
To make molasses, the sugar cane plant is harvested and its juice is extracted. The juice is then boiled, which causes the sugar to crystallize. This happens in three different stages. When this first boiling is over and the sugar crystals are removed, you have first molasses, or light molasses. Light molasses has the highest sugar content of all types of molasses because not much sugar has been taken out. Second molasses, or dark molasses, comes from the second boiling and crystal removal. The third creates blackstrap molasses, which has the least amount of sugar of all the molasses types. Blackstrap molasses is pretty great. Extracting all the sugar leaves behind a bunch of good stuff – manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium. Vitamins and minerals galore!
Molasses can be sulfured or unsulfured. But go for the unsulfured. That means the fumes used in processing the sugar aren’t retained as sulfur in the molasses. No one wants that!
Molasses is about 65% as sweet as refined sugar. If you want to substitute it in your recipes, your best bet is to use it in place of brown sugar. The flavor profile and moisture content of molasses lend themselves well to this swap. Try 1 cup molasses for every 3/4 cup brown sugar. Molasses can also be used cup for cup in place of honey, agave nectar or maple syrup. The taste will obviously change, but it could make for some fun experiments!
Do you use molasses in your baking? What’s your favorite recipe?